At first it was a shallow cut, a little slice against the shadow-strewn edge of the Ultima weapon, a thin, bright stem of blood that trickled down his wrist and forearm and came to rest in the crook of his elbow, warm and wet and solid. He hadn't met it to be anything but that - just a cut, just a little bit of blood - but then he fell asleep and something was whispering in his ear and cold arms took him and hugged him and caressed until sleep came, and he dreamed of Aerith.
He felt in these dreams, he could feel her cold body, frozen and stiff from her underwater grave, he could feel her touch, somehow warm, her bright smile, the way her hand would stroke his jaw and neck as if she wanted nothing more than to kiss him crazy, but she never did, and then he would ask what needed to be asked.
"When do I have to go back?"
"Soon." she would say, her fragile voice shaking with what could be horror or happiness, or both, for that matter, and he would hold her a little while longer before she faded into nothingness and he was back in his room, cold and numb and alone.
The second cut was a little deeper, and when he saw Aerith again, this time their meeting was longer, her touch felt more real, her face seemed clearer, like he was no longer looking at her through a photograph. And once again they would touch, they would hold eachother, they would whisper sweet nothings and smile and want, and then he would ask the forbidden question, and she would answer, soon, my love, soon, and then she would gradually fade and he would be back where he started, only this time he'd cut deeper, and deeper, and deeper, but never, never did their time together satisify him. He would want more, he would feel more, he would know more, but he eventually their time would run out and he would be cast into the living, breathing hell that was life.
And then came the air.
And in the air was breath and voice and smiles, but he walked through it and followed his own begging soul, and it lead him to white waters, gentle ripples that of white crystel that held their murky darkness beneath a beautiful surface, a darkness that Aerith had been buried in shortly after death.
And he reached in with his left hand, closing his eyes as the water closed in around him, dark pressure against his hand, and the thought that Aerith's body lay beneath, dead and cold and out of reach, raped his mind until there was nothing more to do than want, than to drown out the tears he wanted to desperatley to cry by lowering himself into the water, by letting the dark unknown envelop him and hold him close.
He opened his stinging eyes and was greeted by complete darkness, broken by random spheres of light that expanded in thin, lace stripes, decorating her resting place in a glow that was somehow marking.
He swam deeper, and deeper, and now the pressure around him was worse than the pressure of Ultima weapon on his bare fleash. And the deeper he swam, the more he would suffocate, and soon he realized that he was dying, that even if he wanted to, he'd never get up in time, not with this mind set, not with this kind of oppertunity surrounding him - the bleak promise that Aerith was there, somewhere there.
And then they touched.
Her hair swam around them, wild and perfect, an imagine of the most beauitful Seduca he could have ever laid eyes on, graced by sparkling emeralds glittering beneath half-closed eyelids, a lazy smile spreading across her white face, lips painted the color of ripened peaches. China-doll arms wrapped around him and held him close, and even though his armor was colder than the icy lake that surrounded them, it didn't matter, because they were too dead to feel.
"Am I dreaming?" he whispered into her warm nest of hair.
"I don't know." she breathed, and then thin fingers guided his and their hands were on eachother, all over eachother, touching and feeling and loving and holding, until both of them were unclothed and flushed and perfectly content.
He leaned forward then, his heart throbbing heavily in his chest, and whispered; "Can I kiss you?"
And she nodded and it was bliss, it was pure bliss to feel warm, willing lips beneath his, to be encased in the saftey of her white arms, to feel her little pink tounge sucking greedily on his lower lip.
And vivdly he heard someone sobbing above him, past the mouth of the lake and into the world beyond, but it didn't matter now, because she was there and he was there and not a thing, living or dead, could touch them now.
"How long do I have." he whispered, holding her warm, unclothed body fearfully, as if she would shatter like glass in his very hands. "When do I have to go back?"
"Never." Aerith whispered, her breath caressing his face like freash summer wind. "Never."